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The Go Mental! journey started in March 2020 in Berlin-Kreuzberg, just a few days before the first lockdown in Germany.

Elisabeth: “After forging my path as a filmmaker in the United States, I returned to Germany with the desire to contribute to a festival that would make mental health its priority. In the US I knew plenty of festivals dedicated to this issue. So I had no doubt that there must be something of the sort in Berlin as well. After a quick research, I realized that there was in fact no such thing. This left me shocked, confused and rattled. I was thinking. How can it be? Even before I had moved to the US, I knew that mental health was not really the favorite topic on the societal and political agenda. But surely, something must have had changed. As it turned out, it didn’t. There was no doubt in mind that if there was not the change I wanted to see, I had to become it. The next day, I went to an independent filmmakers’ group meeting where people were pitching their projects. I went up and introduced the idea for the Go Mental! Film Festival and was met with a lot of support from the community.”

The festival was co-founded by B.A. Cultural Studies Anna Maria Ortese who was co-director from May 2020 to December 2022.

In January 2023, the Go Mental! Film Festival was rebranded under the direction of Elisabeth Staak.

Mental health is an important issue to Elisabeth in both her personal and professional life and it is her understanding that it deserves the same care and attention as physical health. Thereby, she aligns herself with the definition of health by the World Health Organization stating that “[h]ealth is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. In Germany the topic is still treated as a taboo. People who are affected do not feel comfortable or empowered to speak up about their issues or getting treatment. In some cases, the latter is further complicated by the lack of qualified professionals. Therefore, people are oftentimes left to their own devices. Additionally, societal stigmas attached to certain mental health conditions contribute to that. It is Elisabeth's firm belief that this kind of treatment of mental health is only worsening an already bad situation.

Elisabeth: “Mental health has been an issue close to my heart for as long as I can remember. Though, I realized early on that it is oftentimes treated like a secret. Something that is kept hidden. Below the surface. While I have always considered myself openminded towards therapy and suggested it to a lot of my friends and family who were struggling, it was not until I went through that process myself that I truly understood how hard a step it is to take. Especially in a society that so heavily stigmatizes or shuts down conversations on mental well-being. It takes courage to address something that influences your everyday life in ways that seem invisible to an outsider but are burdening you deeply. Through therapy I learnt how to self-reflect in a different way and I realized that I had been struggling with high-functioning anxiety. Being able to call it what it was, felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders and it empowered me to improve the quality of my life overall. With more openness and authenticity, I believe that we can all contribute to making communities and societies healthier and stronger.”

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